What Matters Most

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her,“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

#DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

There is only one thing worth being concerned about: knowing and loving Jesus

That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t work hard and do my best in other areas of life – I should. But my #1 priority should be spending time with Jesus and getting to know Him better. Falling in love with Jesus. If I’m not spending time with him every day I need to re-prioritize.

This lesson took me 39 years to figure out.

Up until a few years ago, I’d try to read the Bible regularly, but I’d lose momentum or get distracted. I’d do Bible studies and try different devotional books, but I’d lose interest. My time reading the Bible and praying was very inconsistent. I was swamped with work and marriage and parenting . . . and Jesus got my leftover time and energy.

Then a perfect storm of things happened:

  1. My work-life had become unmanageable. I was working 60+ hours a week, traveling all the time and completely stressed out.
  2. I read the book The Divine Mentor and it was like a lightbulb went off: devotional books are fine, but the most important book – really the only book I need – is the Bible.
  3. I applied “S.O.A.P.” while reading the Bible. I don’t do it by the book, but I keep a journal with me and write done what I am learning in the Bible. This helps keep me focused and on track.
  4. My small group at church discussed the idea of reading through the Bible in a Year.

This perfect storm led to a breakthrough for me. I put my devotionals away. I opened my Bible. I signed up for a “Read through the Bible” in a year plan on Bible.com (I use the corresponding YouVersion app). I started going to bed earlier so I could get up an hour earlier and have an hour of peace and quiet to spend with Jesus before my family woke up. Eventually, I let all my clients go and made some major career changes.

The change has been amazing.

I’m far from perfect and realize I never will be on this earth, but Jesus is changing me. I still get stressed. I still lose it and yell at my kids (I did this morning when my daughter refused to get ready for school). But I don’t get nearly as stressed as I used to. I don’t get as angry as often. I feel peace. I feel love. I’m a better mom and wife. I know that God is in control. And I know that the time I invest in my relationship with Jesus is the most important investment I’ll ever make and it can never be taken from me.

Slowly but surely, by the grace of God, I’m being more like Mary.

 

 

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Practicing Humility

Then he said to them,“Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” Luke 9:48 #DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

The Bible speaks frequently about humility (good) and pride (bad). Repeatedly we are told to humble ourselves and that the least will be the greatest. Both the Old and New Testament explain the benefits of humility and that pride goes before a fall.

Clearly, “humility” is an important condition to practice, but society tells me something different. I am bombarded with messages about the importance of self-confidence and believing I can do anything I set my mind to. From an early age, we are told to be proud of ourselves and believe in ourselves. How do these messages fit in with the messages from the Bible?

First, some definitions (all from Merriam-Webster):

Humility: freedom from pride or arrogance :the quality or state of being humble

Humble: (1) :not proud or haughty :not arrogant or assertive (2) :reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission ; (3) a :ranking low in a hierarchy or scale

Pride: :the quality or state of being proud: such as
a :inordinate self-esteem
b :a reasonable or justifiable self-respect
c :delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship

Self-Esteem: a confidence and satisfaction in oneself

Self-Confidence: confidence in oneself and in one’s powers and abilities

From what I’ve read in the Bible over the past two years in my #DailyBibleReading, I don’t think most of the self-esteem messages that society sends are consistent with the Bible. Instead of spending my time building my self-confidence, I should be building my relationship with Jesus. Instead of putting my faith in my ability, I should put my faith in God’s power. Instead of teaching my daughters to be confident in themselves and their abilities, I should be teaching them to put their confidence in Jesus working through them.

I want my daughters to be extremely confident. But not in their own abilities. I want them to be 100% confident in Jesus.

Human abilities fail. I can’t do everything. I’m not Superwoman. She doesn’t exist. I won’t and don’t succeed at everything. I fail. When I was younger I heard people say that I could be anything I wanted when I grew up. But that was a lie. No matter how much I might want to be; I’ll never be a great athlete. I don’t have the ability. I’ll never be an accountant or actuary because my mind isn’t wired that way.

That doesn’t mean God doesn’t have an important plan for my life and a purpose for His kingdom. He does. He says that as Christians we are all part of the His church and have important roles to play. The most important role is loving God and loving others as myself.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians 2:3-4 

How can I practice humility? How do I humble myself?

  • Realize that every ability and opportunity I have isn’t from me . . . it is a gift from God.
  • Understand and appreciate that every person is better than me in some way. The 2-year-old in the line at the grocery store may have greater faith. The homeless man on the corner could teach me about patience. The woman in the nursing home may have a faith and prayer-life that can move mountains. If I take the time to look closely – to get to know people – I can learn a lot.
  • Talk less. Listen more.
  • Observe
  • Be grateful.
  • Thoughtfully receive criticism without reacting in anger or defensiveness.
  • Confess my sins to God and others.
  • Submit to authority . . . including my husband.
  • Forgive
  • Think less about myself and more about Jesus.
  • Pray
  • Speak well about others. Look for the strengths of others and lift them up.
  • Ask for help.
  • Realize I don’t have all the answers. But God does.
  • Don’t focus on what I want to do and what I want to be . . . seek God’s will in my life, obey Him, and put my confidence in Him finishing the good work He started.

And the man said to me, “Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling. Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.” Daniel 10:11-12 

And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” James 4:6-8,10 

 

 

 

 

Asthma and Jesus

My youngest daughter has allergies and asthma. She takes multiple medications in the morning and before bed – including an asthma maintenance inhaler – and never goes anywhere without a rescue inhaler and epi-pen. This past weekend she had a friend spend the night and in the excitement of a sleepover, she didn’t take her medications before bed. By the next evening, she was wheezing and congested. After only one missed dose and she could feel the effects.

I had a similar experience but in a spiritual sense.

Sunday morning I was worn out from listening to a late night slumber party giggle-fest. I decided to skip my morning time of #DailyBibleReading and sleep in. I figured I’d get my Jesus fix at church. I’d read the Bible and pray later.

We went to church and then in the afternoon I prepared to do my #DailyBibleReading. But I got distracted by Facebook and HGTV and Sukuku (I’ve advanced to the “extreme” level) and a library book that is due soon. I didn’t read the Bible or pray.

By evening I could feel the effects of missing one dose of my personal time with Jesus. Seriously.

I was crabby and irritable. I yelled at my husband. I was letting my mind wander to places it shouldn’t.

I’m not trying to be legalistic about #DailyBibleReading, but here’s the thing: I have a disease called sin. I can’t control it. Only Jesus can. My daily time with Him is like a maintenance inhaler.  If I don’t take those 30 minutes with Him every morning I can feel the effects.

This spiritual race isn’t a sprint. It is a marathon. And the only way my lungs stay strong is through time with Jesus. Every day.

 

 

 

 

30 Days of Gratitude

I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. Psalms 116:17 

#DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

In the Old Testament, the Israelites made “thanksgiving” offerings to God, praising and thanking Him (Leviticus 7). Throughout Psalms and the New Testament, there are many verses and examples of people thanking God. We are instructed to give thanks and praise God.

With Thanksgiving looming around the corner and repeated biblical encouragement to be thankful, how can I cultivate a heart of Thanksgiving? How can I teach my children to be grateful?

30 Days of Gratitude

  1. Write a prompt thank you note upon receiving a gift or act of kindness.
  2. Smile and thank people I come in contact with – from someone opening a door for me to a waiter to my child or my husband.
  3. Thank God daily for His greatness and the gifts He has given me.
  4. Keep a gratitude journal.
  5. Put a stickie note in my daughters’ backpack or lunch, thanking them for something specific they’ve done.
  6. Send my parent or grandparent a card, thanking them for loving me and something unique they’ve done that I appreciate.
  7. Leave a huge tip.
  8. Sing praise songs to Jesus.
  9. If I see someone in uniform, thank him or her for their service. If it is in a coffee shop, pick up the tab.
  10. Call someone out on Facebook in a positive way, thanking them/praising them for something they’ve done.
  11. Call an elected official or send a note to thank them for something they’ve done . . . even if they are of a different political party.
  12. Compliment an employee to their superior.
  13. Send my child’s teachers a nice note or email, thanking them for teaching my daughter.
  14. Write my husband a love letter, listing at least 10 detailed things about him that I’m grateful for.
  15. Verbally thank a co-worker for something they’ve done or something I appreciate about them (not by email or text).
  16. Don’t complain for one full day. Don’t even think complaints. Shut them down as soon as they start and concentrate on the positive.
  17. Congratulate someone on an accomplishment.
  18. Volunteer at least one day out of 30 . . . visit a nursing home, serve a meal at a homeless shelter, pass out food at a food pantry, etc.
  19. In a group setting, praise my husband for something specific.
  20. Bring a snack to my church office with a thank you note for the pastors and staff.
  21. Offer to take a friend out and tell them how much I appreciate their friendship. Pay for lunch or coffee.
  22. Send a cute/funny GIF by text to thank someone.
  23. Spend time before church praying and preparing my heart . . . and then during church concentrate completely on God while singing His praises.
  24. Make an anonymous contribution or give a gift to someone in need, without them knowing who it is from.
  25. Practice saying “no thank you” in front of my children and encourage them to do the same. Show gratitude even when declining something.
  26. Thank God for everything . . . that means even the hard things. Even the things I don’t like. Even the hurts I’ve experienced. Thank Him for those experiences, recognize He is in control and all things will work together for good.
  27. Have my husband and children do a Love Languages quiz and then pick several concrete things to do to show them love in their language.
  28. Watch my tone – use gentle words and a kind tone when talking to my family.
  29. Give my husband a small gift to thank him for loving me.
  30. Set a good example for my kids – say “thank you” regularly and encourage them to thank others. Talk to them about the importance of saying thanks and gently point out opportunities to say thanks.

Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving. For this will please the LORD more than sacrificing cattle, more than presenting a bull with its horns and hooves. Psalms 69:30-31

Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him. Psalms 95:2

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Colossians 4:2

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:16-17

 

 

Peace in the Midst of Chaos

How do we find peace in this chaotic world?

There is chaos all around us. Anytime I turn on the TV or look at my phone it is swirling around me – from the KKK in Charlottesville, to nuclear threats, to political unrest, to celebrity suicide. And then there is the chaos of everyday life.  From getting kids ready for back to school and keeping up with my to-do list.

But my God is a God of peace. And if I focus on Him, all the chaos falls away.

Isaiah 45-18 NLT

Chaos is nothing new. War, racial tension, family disagreements, and unrest have been here since sin entered the world. God didn’t create us to live in chaos. Our eyes aren’t meant to focus on the worries of the world.

Our eyes should be focused on Jesus.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:7,10

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3

Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble. Psalms 119:165

Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. Psalms 34:14 

How do we find peace in this chaotic world?

  1. Seek Jesus: Read the Bible every day. #DailyBibleReading
  2. Do a Self-Inventory: “Am I doing good in the world?” Do something good. Every day. Show kindness to a stranger. Do something loving for a family member. Pray for an enemy.
  3. Pray: Keep a prayer journal. Take your worries and hurts to Jesus.
  4. Praise God: Thank Him and praise Him.

Turn off your phone. Open your Bible.

Peace - turn off phone

 

How to Love God

The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.” Psalms 91:14-16  #DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

Psalms 91-14-16 NLT

I came across these verses today in my #DailyBibleReading.

How I want to claim these as promises as mine: God will rescue, protect, answer, be with me during times of trouble, honor me, etc. But these aren’t blanket promises. They are for people who love Him and trust Him.

As Christians, our #1 command is to “Love God”. But what does this mean? How do I know if I am loving God the way He wants? Am I loving Him with all my heart, soul and mind?

What does it mean to truly love God?

  • Obeying His commands

  • Loving others

  • Hating evil

  • Holding tightly to God 

  • Searching for Him

  • Praising God

  • Storing up His words in my heart

Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

Jesus replied,”You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:37-40 

You who love the LORD, hate evil! He protects the lives of his godly people and rescues them from the power of the wicked. Psalms 97:10

Be careful to obey all these commands I am giving you. Show love to the LORD your God by walking in his ways and holding tightly to him. Deuteronomy 11:22

Loving God with All My Heart, Soul, and Mind:

Loving God with what is inside of me . . . and with what I do and say.

Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. Psalms 119:2 

I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalms 119:11

Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart. Psalms 119:34 

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” Psalms 27:8 

If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. 1 John 2:4-6 

And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. 1 John 2:17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a Slump

I haven’t written my blog for a while. I’ve been in a bit of a spiritual slump. I’ve still been doing my daily Bible reading, but nothing seems to sink in. I’ve been doing my SOAP . . . but the “A” (Action) has been lacking.  I’m distracted.

I read the Bible on my phone on the YouVersion app and lately in the middle of reading I’ll get a text (or remember a text I “need” to send) or receive a Facebook notification and soon I’m 20 minutes deep into social media and my Bible reading is forgotten. And then by the time I get back to the Bible my mind keeps wandering back to social media.

Looking back over my journal the last few weeks some lines I’ve written stand out:

  • “I am irritable” (July 7th)
  • “I am worn out” (July 6th)
  • “Sometimes I’m embarrassed to say that I am a Christian . . . not because I’m ashamed of Jesus but because I’m ashamed of the terrible job I do showing His love to others” (July 5th)
  • “My mind is distracted by social media, TV, etc. I don’t have peace” (June 29)
  • “I am having a hard time focusing and praying right now” (June 27)

Interestingly, just a few days before my “slump” started I had attended a Bible Study on “The Invisible War” by Chip Ingram. The study I attended was on prayer. We are in an invisible war and we need prayer at all times. Our prayers should be constant, intense, and focused.

Satan hates when we pray.

Satan wants us distracted. He wants our Bible reading and prayers to be a half-effort. He wants us to just go through the motions or not at all.

When I let myself slide in my prayer life and Bible reading I can see the effects in my actions and attitudes. I become irritable and unloving. I don’t have peace.

Is it a coincidence that I made a conscience decision to get more focused in my prayer life and then – BAM – suddenly a million distractions seem to pop up every time I sit down to pray and read the Bible?

I doubt it.

Satan doesn’t want me praying and applying what I read in the Bible. He knows that amazing things will happen if I do. This race is not a sprint . . . but a marathon.  I will have distractions and pains along the way. But I need to push through. Persevere. Run the race before me.

“Get behind me Satan”.

Set my sights on Jesus.

Onward.